Liver disease is more common than people realize. In the U.S., 4.5 million adults have chronic liver disease. And 80 to 100 million adults have fatty liver disease, although many don’t know it.
A healthy lifestyle—including a nutritious diet—is the best way to keep your liver functioning properly. The best foods for liver health include whole grains, green leafy vegetables, berries, and foods with omega-3 fatty acids.
We’ve compiled a list of the 11 best foods for liver health. Keep reading to find out which foods to include in your diet to keep your liver in top shape.
Types of Liver Diseases
Liver disease includes several different conditions. Some of them are inherited, and others are caused by viruses. However, the most common liver diseases are caused by lifestyle choices.
While there are many conditions that can affect your liver, the most common one by far is nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). It’s estimated that 24% of U.S. adults and nearly 10% of U.S. children have NAFLD. Unfortunately, NAFLD can sometimes progress to a more serious and chronic liver disease called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
The good news is that nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is almost entirely preventable. NAFLD is more likely to occur in people who are overweight or obese—especially those with abdominal obesity—and people with insulin resistance or diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Controlling these conditions by eating the best foods for liver health improves or eliminates your risk of developing fatty liver disease.
General Recommendations for a Healthy Liver
To keep your liver healthy, there are several things you can do:
- Lose weight if you are overweight or obese
- Eat a healthy diet
- Be physically active
Making smart choices about the foods you eat is critical for liver health. When choosing the best foods for liver health, there are several recommendations:
- Limit fat, sugar, and salt, and stay away from fried foods.
- Avoid alcohol; limit to 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.
- Eat more fiber: fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads, rice, and cereals.
- Drink lots of water.
So, which foods specifically are the best foods for liver health? Keep reading to find out more.
11 Best Foods for Liver Health
As we researched the best foods for liver health, several ones were consistently mentioned by doctors and researchers. We’ve put all the foods together in one convenient guide for you.
Here’s our list of the 11 best foods for liver health.
Oats are among the best foods for liver health and what you should eat to improve your overall total health. A whole grain, oats are also high in protein, fiber, and unsaturated fats. Eating oats can help you lose weight, lower cholesterol, and reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and fatty liver disease.
Eating oatmeal daily for breakfast is an easy and tasty way to add more oats to your diet. Be sure to choose organic steel-cut or rolled oats, and stay away from instant! For an additional liver health boost, sprinkle berries on top.
Whole grains work to improve liver health by reducing your risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. They also help reduce inflammation and keep your gut bacteria in balance, both of which have been linked to developing fatty liver disease.
Look for ways to replace refined grains in your diet with healthier whole grains. Whole grain breads and cereals are among the best foods for liver health. Additionally, other swaps you can make are using whole wheat flour instead of white and snacking on popcorn instead of chips or crackers.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables—such as spinach, kale, and romaine—are some of the best foods for liver health. They contain high levels of vitamin K and the antioxidant glutathione, both of which are important for liver function and prevent the development of fatty liver disease.
Eat a green leafy salad with your dinner, or add kale leaves to your morning smoothie. There are lots of easy (and yummy) ways to get more greens into your diet.
Berries can be considered superfoods and are frequently recommended as one of the best foods for liver health.
Berries—especially blueberries—are rich in polyphenols which have numerous health benefits and may prevent and reverse fatty liver. According to a 2018 study, combining blueberries with probiotics may be an effective treatment for fatty liver and can improve the liver’s condition.
Broccoli is another one of the best foods for liver health. Three to five servings of broccoli per week lowers your risk for several types of cancer, including liver cancer. Broccoli also protects against fatty liver disease by stopping the liver from taking in too much fat.
Add fresh raw or lightly steamed organic broccoli to your meals for the best benefits.
Olive oil has numerous health benefits. Rich in vitamins E and K, olive oil raises “good” HDL cholesterol levels, lowers your risk of heart disease, and helps prevent fatty liver.
When deciding which olive oil to include in your diet, reach for extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO). EVOO is often made through a cold-press process that doesn’t use heat. This minimally processed oil best retains olives’ healthy antioxidants and polyphenols.
Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil on your salad or use it in cooking.
Fatty fish are those that contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Eating at least two servings per week has many positive benefits. Among them is preventing fatty liver disease. A recent South Korean study found that higher intakes of oil fish result in better protection against nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, especially for women.
Cold-water fatty fish are some of the best foods for liver health because they have higher levels of omega-3s than warm-water fish, but both are good sources. Choose salmon, cod, sardines, and tuna for the most omega-3s and the greatest health benefits.
Garlic has long been known for its prevention and treatment of several health conditions, including heart diseases. Garlic is full of antioxidants that can help with high blood pressure and cholesterol, prevent the hardening of the arteries, protect against some cancers, and help manage blood sugar levels.
Garlic also has been shown to be effective in protecting liver cells from damage and treating fatty liver disease.
Minced or chopped garlic can be added to many dishes as you are cooking. However, the best way to eat garlic for your health is raw. Unfortunately, many people may find that raw garlic is a bit strong! You can add raw garlic to salad dressings and food dips, so it’s not quite as overpowering. If you still can’t stomach garlic raw, don’t worry. Cooked garlic will still provide protective health benefits.
Ginseng and ginseng extracts have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. Saponins are compounds in ginseng that have been shown to boost immune systems, control blood sugar levels, and protect against dementia.
Research is also beginning to show what traditional medicine has long known—that ginseng can protect the liver. Ginseng may be an effective treatment for liver diseases, including fatty liver and cirrhosis.
Ginseng can be made into a tea, eaten raw, and added to many soups and other recipes.
No list of the best foods for liver health would be complete without coffee. People who drink two or more cups of coffee per day have half the number of incidences of chronic liver disease than people who consume less than a cup per day.
Coffee protects against liver cancer and helps to improve fatty liver disease, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.
All types of coffee are good for your liver—caffeinated, decaffeinated, ground, or even instant (although we don’t recommend instant because of how processed it is.) Drinking up to three or four cups of coffee per day can reduce your risk of chronic liver disease and chronic fatty liver by twenty percent. Drinking coffee daily also reduces your risk of death from chronic liver disease by forty-nine percent!
Green tea is a popular beverage drunk worldwide. Green tea is full of flavonoids and other antioxidants, which provide many boosts to your health. Drinking green tea can protect against liver diseases, including liver cancer, cirrhosis, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
For optimal health benefits, drink three to five cups per day, but be cautious of the caffeine. Many people forget that green tea has caffeine, although at lower levels than can be found in black tea and coffee.
The Best Foods for Liver Health—Now You Know
A healthy diet is something we all should strive for, and especially one that can help prevent the common problem of liver disease. Start including these best foods for liver health, and know you are doing all you can to optimize your well-being.